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2-Headed Monster: After Texas Tire Debacle, Should NASCAR Consider New Supplier?

To call this past weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway a low-point in the lifecycle of the Next Gen car would be an understatement. Several leaders — not just cars — wrecked out of the race with blown tires; some after just 30 or so laps. Following a Bristol Motor Speedway race that saw multiple playoff contenders affected by steering issues, to follow that up on a completely different surface and track layout is obviously cause for concern.

As the sole tire provider for NASCAR for almost 30 years, is it time for NASCAR to once again open up the playing field to new suppliers? This week Vito Pugliese and Clayton Caldwell tackle the topic in 2-Headed Monster.

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue…

With as many spins and flat tires as there were during Sunday’s (Sept. 25) NASCAR Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR community — fans and competitors alike — were awash in anger. Nobody was immune from the 16 caution flags, and the most vulnerable place to be seemed to be at the front of the field. Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., and Chase Elliott – all past champions – succumbed to blown right rear tires while comfortably leading.

Several others suffered similar fates, like Chris Buescher.

Naturally, whenever a tire appears to be the culprit of a crash, Goodyear gets called out on the carpet. The memes likening the rash of blown tires to the 2008 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the race that all but killed enthusiasm for the oval event – began to fly as wildly as the debris field from the latest contact with the turn 4 wall.

Greg Stucker from Goodyear issued a statement – or rationalization – saying that the laundry list of reasons he offered weren’t excuses, as to why there were so many problems that night. While the tire supplier is the natural punching bag for when there are tire issues, it’s not always Akron’s fault. At times it might seem to be a trite phrase to say, “it’s not the tires, it’s what the teams are doing to them,” but in this case, it very likely may be what the teams are doing to them.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Put Texas Motor Speedway Out of Its Misery

Rodney Childers on Monday offered a series of tweets suggesting the issue was the result of teams airing the tires down below the recommended air pressure, in an effort to lower the ride height of the car by a staggering .100 in order to get the under-body diffuser that much closer to the track.

Remember when teams would risk a $50,000 fine to try and get the rear quarter panels up ¼ of an inch, or cheat the roof height by a similar amount?

Now we’re down to airing down the tires like a semi trying to clear a low bridge trying to get a tenth of an inch closer to the ground, due to rules limiting shock travel. So, if the tire manufacturer sets a minimum air pressure limit, and that same tire compound was used without issue a few weeks earlier at another 1.5-mile track – is it expressly the fault of the tire manufacturer to the point where new suppliers should be entertained?

I think that’s a hard argument to make.

That’s like doing a bunch of modifications to your new Mustang, breaking something, then getting mad that they won’t fix it under warranty, then threatening to buy a Camaro. Remember the Formula 1 tire shredding fiasco of 2005 at Indianapolis?

That resulted in Michelin shod cars parked in the garage, along with a few on Bridgestone. It ended up poisoning the relationship, and only lasted two more years before F1 withdrew from the US until the advent of Circuit of The Americas in Austin, back in 2012.

Much like Pepperidge Farm, I remember the tire wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s between Hoosier and Goodyear.

Was it some great experiment to lead to innovation and spirited competition? No, it caused a lot of blown right-front tires, terrible impacts into concrete walls without safer barriers, and some pretty basic driver safety equipment that is taken for granted today. It wasn’t uncommon back then to see the dashes bent or steering columns knocked cockeyed after crash during that era, not to mention the physical tolls of ribs, shoulders, and concussions that bore the brunt of the impacts.

While Goodyear did well by noting some of the factors that may have exacerbated the issue, such as the extreme heat that track was under that day, as well as some of the bumps in turn 4 which cause load spikes in the corner on a shorter sidewall tire that the Next Gen car brought about, we need more of the technical explanation that Rodney Childers offered. Some scoff at that, saying “oh, the fans don’t care about that kind of stuff…”

Uh, have you ever tried telling them?

This is a sport that exists solely on the prospect of advertising consumer goods and services to the spectators. If you want to explain how your stuff works, you have the ultimate forum and a captive audience in which to offer something compelling beyond “tight means it’s hard to turn” or “PLAYOFF IMPLICATIONS!” every 30 laps. Whatever happened to the cut away car that used to be a fixture during broadcasts? Spin that hunk of junk around and show the fans what the diffuser does, why it’s there, and what is to be risked and gained by lowering it the thickness of a less than a golf pencil is worth risking wrecking.

Could Goodyear build a 17-inch low profiled tire that’s more durable, but wears more than this past weekend? Sure, probably. But what is the sanctioning body requesting? Does that risk putting too much heat in the tire if it wears quicker if the same teams run the initial air pressure too low? This is still a new car that we’ve had seven months to work with – with one off weekend to address issues – and guys are still getting hurt driving them. Noah Gragson remarked that he wasn’t excited about racing the rest of the year in Cup while chasing the Xfinity Series title – in apparently what he feels are safer cars.

Before we start beating up Goodyear for what might be some aggressive set ups coupled with a 100-degree day on a bumpy, fast track, there’s still some larger issues that need fixing – like things catching on fire, and careers potentially ended prematurely after a relatively benign impact. Layering in additional variables like competing tire compounds and manufacturers would potentially be disastrous. – Vito Pugliese

The Time Has Come to Consider Something Else

Last week’s tire at Texas was unacceptable. It was reminiscent of Indianapolis in 2008, and who could forget that day? Oh, maybe Goodyear has. Yeah. I said it.

They vowed to never ever have a situation like that happen again and Sunday was pretty much the same deal, expect this time it was 35 laps instead of 16.

See also
NASCAR Mailbox: Why Can't the Teams Fix the Next Gen Car?

I know people are going to point to the tire wars of the 1980s and 1990s as a reason for not having two tire companies. I know many say those wars were bad for the sport and were part of the reason for several bad accidents during that era. But heck, this new car has safety issues. So if it improves the racing even a bit, why not consider it?

No matter what happens I think it’s time to hold Goodyear accountable. That’s been my biggest problem. After all these years, Goodyear continues to point the finger at the teams and air pressure. Even a little accountability would have me off their backs a bit, but I can’t take them doing that bad of a job and not admitting they had an issue and pointing the finger elsewhere.

There’s no doubt that being a tire manufacturer in this era is tough, I am not trying to say their job is easy. However, in most instances competition is a good thing and I think adding a little competition to Goodyear would at least force them to step up their game.

As it is now, Goodyear can build a bad tire and literally nothing happens to them. NASCAR doesn’t say anything, the drivers get fined if they do and Goodyear can point the fingers at the teams and tracks and no one bats an eye at it. They just move along to the next race like nothing happened. When you have a playoff race as big of a disaster as the race was at Texas and you create a tire that was that poor, it’s certainly time to consider something else. Could it get any worse?

That’s a serious question, by the way. Yeah, the tire wars of the 1990s may have forced Goodyear and Hoosier to be too aggressive at times. But could a tire be worse than what we saw at Texas? How many accidents were because of blown tires? 12? 15? Either way the answer is way too many. A tire war couldn’t create that many accidents in one week could it?

It’s time to look at other options, that is for sure. – Clayton Caldwell

About the author

Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (monthly, Fridays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

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Dale EarnHog

If the last “Tire war” in NASCAR hadn’t ended in disaster, I would say yes, but the risks are too high. Goodyear wouldn’t go quietly, but at the same time, we HAVE to hold them accountable for these issues.

Jeremy

For one, I don’t think it’s fair to say Goodyear alone is the reason for these failures. Yes, there are other racing tire manufacturers out there, but Goodyear is also one of the premium suppliers in the industry. To think anyone else could solve these problems better than Goodyear is flawed reasoning, IMO.

I do think overall it could be good for NASCAR to allow teams to choose suppliers for different parts of the cars (but disallow in house development of these parts). Tires, brakes, rotors, shocks, springs, fluids, etc. It has the potential to add interesting strategies/partnerships and storylines to the races – as well as potentially lure in more sponsors, which teams desperately need these days. That said, considering the “Tire Wars” debacle of the past, NASCAR would have to be stringent in setting rules and guidelines for these suppliers and testing to ensure all are abiding to protect the safety of participants/fans. It could be done, but admittedly, at what price / effort I don’t know – the juice may or may not be worth the squeeze.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jeremy
John

Accountable? What does that even mean? They tell the teams what is acceptable to run for tire pressure. The teams go outside the recommendation. Some tires fail. Give me your definition of what ‘Accountable’ means, please.

DoninAjax

The problem at Indy was caused by a tire test in 40 degree temperatures and a race in the 90s. That’s like running a winter tire at 190 mph. It won’t last long. Maybe the low profile tire can’t dissipate heat as fast as it needs to.

Bill B

They don’t need a new supplier. They need to test more. They need to have the full practices back before each race. Once this new car and tire gets worked out, then they can go back to limited testing and practices. It isn’t worth saving money if the race sucks and drivers get hurt.

Charlie

Dear Children Authors:
The last tire war nearly killed several drivers. Compliance with the tire-manufacturers’ recommendations would help. Yes, they are working with a new car and that will take some time to refine. The tire will improve. The mental capacity and pressure to win will replace common sense. We will need to wait for a grieved widow to sure a team for the loss of a spouse by not following the guidelines set forth by the tire manufacturer. Then the crew chiefs and engineers will have an vision they need to follow recommendations. There is enough on the record that the limits are ignored. Cannot sue NASCAR or Goodyear, though they will be named. That crew chief, engineer and team, oh yes and don’t think the grieved party will have a choice of personal injury litigators. They need to think.

Bill B

Once again, if they reinstated two hour-plus practices before each race, like they did for the last 40 years (pre-pandemic), most of these tire issues would be mitigated. Teams would see where the line for camber and pressure before the race starts.
Either that or they need to police tires pressures during the race and camber setting before the race (I don’t think anyone wants that).

Shayne

If NASCAR is truly a sport, why don’t the teams practice and test during the week? If stick and ball teams/players only showed up on game day, how well would they play when it’s all on the line?

A new car is even more reason to test, test, and practice. Not the farce racing we’re seeing as a result of NASCAR’s great vision, innovation, and marketing genius.

Jeremy

They used to be allowed more testing time away from race weekends, but that began going away when Roush and Hendrick started pushing multi-car teams from 2 cars to 4 and 5. This prompted 1) the limit of 4 cars (I think) per team owner, and 2) restricted testing. This was supposed to “level the playing field” and be more fair to the single car teams, since the big teams could gather 4 – 5X more data during a single test. However, I don’t think this was a sound solution. The big teams still get 4 – 5x more data any time the cars are on the track. If anything, the smaller teams should have been given 4 – 5x more testing date allowances.

Kurt Smith

I remember when fewer practices became mandated. At the time Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was more popular than any three drivers combined at the time, drove for a two-car outfit. That more than anything caused fans to demand that NASCAR restrict testing and practices. The end result (surprise!) was that as you said, the larger teams still get more data. Jack Roush owned half of the cars that were in the Chase that year.

Last edited 2 months ago by Kurt Smith
DoninAjax

Why doesn’t NA$CAR check what the teams that have tire problems are setting the camber and toe-in settings at? The independent rear suspension probably allows for camber and toe adjustments and if the teams went too far with the original rear housings I imagine they are pushing and exceeding the envelope even more now. Does NA$CAR have to check the tire pressures before the wheels go on the cars?

John

Biggest reason I heard was the cost of the number of people it would take to do that.

Kevin in SoCal

I remember having polls after these articles voting for who we agreed with.

Kurt Smith

My thought reading this article is not to take a side so much, but to question why either a) Goodyear isn’t screaming at NASCAR to get this car together so that a tire can be made for it, or b) NASCAR isn’t screaming at Goodyear to get their proverbial s*** together.

Because Texas was a really bad look for both entities. Who is going to buy Goodyears after watching that event?

Bill B

I will. The quality of the tires I buy for my truck have nothing to do with anything Goodyear does with NASCAR. However, I do agree, it makes for bad optics.

David Hoffman

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday went away after NASCAR caved in to GM and allowed the body shells of street front wheel drive cars to be put on rear wheel drive race cars. Not many retail buyers care much about the failure of racing only equipment. You have retail buyers of Goodyear Reliant tires at Walmart who are looking for round rubber that keeps them legal. That’s it. What happens to some racing only tire on a $500,000 NASCAR race car doesn’t really influence them.

Ryan A.

No they should not. Good Year is fine. The issue is the 18” rim and the amount of sidewall. The tire has no give. You don’t need a big wheel to go fast. Look at dragsters. They have HUGE sidewall tires to dig in as much grip as possible. As the sidewall flexes, it puts a larger tire patch down for more grip. Right now there is give in the tire, and once they burn the sidewall, 25-30 laps later and it’s over. They start with low pressure, but that is when they are most venerable to sidewall issues. All they have to do is go back the the 15” wheel and there are no issues. I think the 18” wheel looks bad anyway. It’s a racecar not a streetcar. And no streetcar has a single lugnut either.

DoninAjax

I’m sure that when the brain trust decided to design a car that would cure all their problems they decided they wanted aluminum wheels and low profile tires. They looked at the pictures on the drawing board and said, “That sure is purrrty!” The fact that it didn’t fix anything doesn’t matter to them. “”It sure is purrrty!”

John

Find me car on the road today that doesn’t have aluminum wheels? Few and far between (except cop cars). Main reason: they are light weight. Good for fuel economy, less reciprocating mass, much closer to being balanced without weights.

DoninAjax

There are 15 inch 5 bolt aluminum wheels but I think the NA$CAR brain trust saw the aluminum wheels with the center nut on IMSA and other sports cars and had the brilliant conclusion they would work on their Cup bumper cars. Seems that’s another in a long line of miscalculations. So back to the drawing board AGAIN!

John

The manufacturers want this ‘stock’ car to mimic the street version to the extent possible. Also the 18″ wheel allows for packaging of some future ‘enhancements’ desired by manufacturers.

John

Whoever wrote the later part of the article passing the blame Goodyear’s way is ignorant of facts: making them the perfect person to comment on Nascar technical issues (sarcasm intended). If Goodyear is the bad guy here, which they aren’t, but let’s just say its all their fault, how long do you think they would continue this incredibly expensive advertising campaign in Nascar? And if the ignorant, such as yourself, continues to ignore the engineering reality and throw them under the bus every time there is a flat tire, the negative quickly out weighs the positive for Goodyear. So now, Mr Writer, who tool up and supply tires quickly for next year’s Daytona 500? Additionally, with tires being the single most important factor in handling, why would you allow tires as a variable when you can’t change springs? You think that adding another tire supplier, IF you could find one, will result in lower costs? Not the right pot to be stirring here independent of the safety issues.

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